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Wow I have been very wrong! I did learn most of my French in a classroom rather than a native speaking environment... Presumably they did want us to speak more formally. I also might be mixing too much of my English with it. I'm sorry for trying to correct you though ;-P


James

On 1/06/2013, at 2:58 AM, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> On 31 May 2013 05:09, James Kane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
>>>> There is a distinction between 'how do you say X in LANGUAGE' and 'what
>>>> does this word mean'. It looks like you are asking for the latter. The
>>>> former would be expressed in French by (I think) 'comment se dit X' as
>> in
>>>> 'comment se dit 'refrigerator' en français?' rather than 'qu'est-ce que
>> le
>>>> mot 'frigo' veut dire en anglais?'.
>>> Quick correction: "How do you say X in LANGUAGE?" in French would be
>>> "Comment est-ce qu'on dit X en LANGUE ?", with the impersonal "on" rather
>>> than a reflexive. The reflexive sounds nearly like X is trying to say
>>> itself!
>> 
>> I have always been taught 'comment se dit X'.
> 
> 
> You've been taught wrong, unless they wanted you to speak far too formally.
> 
> 
>> I think Spanish also uses a reflexive construction, 'como se dice'. Your
>> way sounds quite formal, although I'm not fluent though so I am probably
>> wrong.
> 
> My way is actually the *opposite* of formal! Using "est-ce que" is by
> definition informal!
> 
> 
>> 
>> Come to think of, 'qu'est-ce que le mot X veut dire en LANGUE' sounds a
>> bit formal as well, maybe 'que veut dire X en LANGUE' might be more
>> conversational.
> Who taught you that? You've got the formality completely messed-up! "Que
> veut dire X en LANGUE ?" is very formal, so formal that the only way to
> make it more formal is to replace "vouloir dire" with "signifier": "to
> mean". In any case, it's already so formal that if I heard someone say it
> that way I'd expect they were reading a book aloud! On the other hand
> "Qu'est-ce que X veut dire ?" *is* informal. Remember: as soon as you use
> "est-ce que" in your questions, you're being informal. It's an informal
> question marker, that you'll use in normal conversations and among friends,
> and which is specific of Spoken French.
> 
> On 31 May 2013 05:24, Matthew Boutilier <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
>> i am the last person who should be giving authoritative information about
>> french, but i always heard "comment dit-on 'X'?" which sounds like a
>> shortened (and possibly equally legitimate) version of Christophe's.
> It's actually the formal, bookish way of asking that question. The
> inversion is typical of Written French, but is extremely rare in Spoken
> French, which prefers to use the question marker "est-ce que" (pronounced
> /ɛsk(ə)/) with the same word order as in affirmative sentences.
> 
> 
>> in turkish it's "'X' [Türkçe] ne demek?" = "X (is) to say what in Turkish?"
>> (lit. "X  [in.Turkish] what say-INF")
>> 
>> in arabic it's not very interesting, the general way just means "how (do)
>> you say X in-the-Arabic?"
>> 
>> in german you can say "Wie sagt man X (auf Deutsch)?" = "how says one X in
>> German?" but i've also heard "wie/was heißt X?" ("how/what is X called?) to
>> ask how something should be translated.
>> 
>> in dutch, "hoe zeg je X?" = "how say you X?"
> One more example I just thought of: Modern Greek:
> "Τι σημαίνει Χ;": "what does X mean?" (a direct equivalent to the English
> version)
> "Πως λένε Χ στα ελληνικά;": "How do you say X in Greek?" (literally: "How
> do they say X in the Greek?")
> 
> On 31 May 2013 05:44, James Kane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
>> Hmmm, looking it up it seams that 'comment dit-on X' is more common,
>> although 'comment se dit X' is used but with a more passive meaning, à la
>> 'how is X is said'.
> Once again, be careful: the first one is very formal, usable in writing but
> certainly not in speech among friends. The second one sounds nearly wrong
> to me, and I'm a native speaker!
> -- 
> Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.
> 
> http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
> http://www.christophoronomicon.nl/